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Turning up the grit for the final 10 games

by Staff Writer / Calgary Flames

Calgary general manager Darryl Sutter made two team appearances on Monday. The first was prior to the Calgary Flames practice. The second was at the Molson Cup player appreciation luncheon.

"I remember coming to these in 2002 and we were not in the playoffs and the attitude was to just go and enjoy it," Sutter told the sol-out luncheon at the Avison Young Club. "But these guys are very serious. We still have something very special to do this year and we will do it with you in tow."

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Earlier in the day he made a visit to the Flames dressing room to point out a couple of numbers. Namely in the goals against category, where the Flames sit at 200.

Sutter noted that the Flames sit third in the Northwest Division and, coincidentally, are third in goals against in the division. He also noted that the Flames are in eighth spot in the Western Conference, and, coincidentally, are eighth in goals against in the conference.

The point? The Flames are scoring enough. But they need to cut down on the goals against.

"We have some things to work on and we will work on them through the strength of the team," Sutter told the lunch gathering.

Flames captain Jarome Iginla agreed with Sutter's assessment.

"There is no question that we have more skill this year and that we are scoring more goals. But the work hasn't been as gritty as it has in the past," said Iginla."We have to make it harder shift to shift. We haven't been hard enough on teams consistently enough."

There are 10 games remaining and the Flames have a playoff spot, sitting four points clear of the surging Colorado Avalanche.

"A goal of ours at the start of the year was to score more goals and we have done that. Unfortunately we have gotten away from the other side of it and we know that. We are working on finding that balance. I don't think the old style of just pure shut it down and grit it out is going to get us where we want to be, either. It's a combination. It's a balance. We haven't been good enough on that balance and we have 10 games to get better," said Iginla.

Beginning Tuesday when the Flames host Detroit, one of the top teams in the National Hockey League.(7 p.m. Pengrowth Saddledome, Sportsnet West and The Fan 960).

Rest assured the Flames are hearing the critics as the season comes down to the wire.

"I want to thank the Calgary media for all their positive reinforcement," Sutter joked at the lunch.

Among the areas that have been questioned by fans and media is the cohesive of the team and the team leaders. But the Flames dismissed those issues on Monday.

"Whatever you think of me as a captain, we have good leadership in here," said Iginla. "Rhett (Warrener) has been to the final three times. We've got Stephane Yelle. We've got (Wayne Primeau) Primes. Reggie (Robyn Regehr). Connie (Craig Conroy) is an ex-captain and has been assistant everywhere he has been.

"We've got good leadership. It's not like we are without a rudder and we are just floating around and we're happy to sink. We're not happy. We're not happy with the way we are playing. We are not happy that we are not winning. But we do believe we are going to turn it. We know we have to be more determined and more gritty.

"Some of these games that we have lost, we haven't played bad. But we know we have to be more consistent and give ourselves a chance to turn things around."

As for finger-pointing, Iginla would have none of that. "It's not like we are in here saying it's you or you or you," he said. "There's none of that and that's good.

"Yes, the top players have to play better. But it's all the way through our team for everybody -- physical, the disturbers. We all know we have to be better. It's a good challenge. We are being pushed. There are a lot of people that have counted us out and say we are done and say we have no team. We're being pushed. It's going to be good for us," said Iginla.

"We all realize the importance of the games right now. The games are going to be tight. Every team that is headed to the playoffs is playing good hockey and trying to gear up. It's time for us to raise ours, too."




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